Case Study – Powering Transparent California’s Growth

The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) is a non-profit organization focused on government accountability and transparency. NPRI partnered with PyCare to maintain and improve their popular website Transparent California, which receives over 400,000 unique visitors each month!


The website is built with python Django, and consists of three key services:

  • NPRI staff upload new salary and pension data to the website
  • Users can browse the data that is saved in a PostgreSQL database.
  • Finally, users can search records to find exactly what they are looking for

Transformation to a Modern Tech Stack

When PyCare first took over, the entire site and database were hosted on two raw Rackspace servers. The underlying software was becoming outdated and page load times were increasing. Staff would sometimes restart the server to keep it running well.

Today, web services are powered by Heroku. The database is hosted via AWS Relational Database
Service (RDS), and the search engine is powered by Elasticsearch. This combination of
managed services provides high reliability and consistent uptime.

Fast, Secure, and Reliable

Along with a move to managed services, PyCare patched security vulnerabilities and made sure
backups were in place. Slow queries were tuned to speed up response times.

Caching and a firewall were implemented to improve performance even further.

New Features Keep Pace with Customer Requirements

On top of improving reliability, PyCare implemented several new features to increase user engagement:

  • An email subscription feature notifies users when new records are uploaded
  • A robust donation form is powered by Stripe and saves money over previous methods
  • The improved file upload system integrates with AWS and allows for larger file uploads
  • Raw file downloads are protected behind a user registration system


These changes allowed the Nevada Policy Research Institute to achieve:

  • Greatly improved SEO rankings due to fast page load times
  • High performance while growing to over 33 million records in the database
  • Increased user engagement due to membership and email subscription features
  • Additional donations to fund operations

Most of all, NPRI has grown and improved their website while staying within a budget that keeps
their organization strong.